Vitaphone and AF Course on Lead FIA GT Qualifying + Grid

Vitaphone Maserati started like they finished 2006 - on top
Courtesy of FIA GT/DPPI

The FIA GT Championship opened its eleventh season with the 2006 Championship-winning teams claiming pole in both categories – although for both drivers, it was their first FIA GT pole position ! 2003 Champion Thomas Biagi placed the nr 1 Vitaphone Racing Team Maserati MC 12 at the front of the grid for tomorrow’s race, while FIA GT newcomer Dirk Müller gave AF Corse Motorola its first GT2 pole position with the nr 50 Ferrari 430 GT2. Zhuhai saw the start of a new qualifying system, with fifteen minutes for GT1 followed by fifteen for the GT2/G2 cars.


Thomas Biagi, the 2003 Champion, has finally claimed the statistic he was missing and set his first-ever FIA GT pole position. Racing this year alongside 2006 Champion Michael Bartels in the nr 1 Maserati MC12, the Italian emerged ahead of two Corvettes in an extremely close 15-minute qualifying session, setting a time of 1:31.339. “This pole was one of my goals this season, so now it is done, I feel more relaxed,” Biagi said. “The race is going to be really tough, and with the new two-hour format it is going to be interesting.”

He was just five thousandths of a second ahead of Mike Hezemans, in the nr 5 Carsport Holland Corvette C6R, and 25 thousandths faster than Anthony Kumpen, in the PK Carsport Corvette C5. “The car just worked fine, we were in the top three all the time, and it is important for tomorrow as the race is going to be tight and we do not know how the conditions will be,” Hezemans explained. His former team-mate Kumpen was equally pleased : “We have one of the oldest cars, but we are still in the front. Our team did a great job during the winter, as they completely rebuilt the car, we have to thank them because with their hard work we are in third position today. I hope it will continue this way.”

Fourth place went to FIA GT newcomers Scuderia Playteam Sarafree, with the nr 11 Maserati MC 12 in the hands of reigning Champion Andrea Bertolini. Placing the PSI Experience C6 in fifth position, Philipp Peter confirmed the speed of the Corvette cars around the Zhuhai circuit.

The leading Aston Martin was sixth, Fabio Babini setting a time of 1:32.304 in the nr 23 Aston Martin Racing BMS DBR9, just ahead of Karl Wendlinger in the nr 33 Jetalliance Racing DBR9. The top seven qualified within one second of each other. The nr 7 Lamborghini Murciélago was tenth, meaning all the different makes were in the top ten.

The 15-minute session saw Hezemans take provisional pole position early on, only to be demoted by his former team-mate Anthony Kumpen. Hezemans retaliated and regained the pole, just two hundredths separating them. Half-way through the session, Biagi set his time of 1:31.339, narrowly taking provisional pole.

AF Course, like the GT1 Champions started 2007 on pole
Courtesy of FIA GT/DPPI


AF Corse Motorola will start from the front two places for tomorrow’s GT2 grid, Dirk Müller having claimed the category pole position with the nr 50 Ferrari 430 GT2, while Gianmaria Bruni took second place with the nr 51 car. Andrew Kirkaldy, who claimed eight pole positions last season, had to be content with third position, putting an end to the run of ten consecutive poles for Scuderia Ecosse.

Müller, returning to his endurance roots after a number of years in the FIA European and then World Touring Car Championships, was delighted with his result. “One – two for AF Corse, and my first pole position for Ferrari : I’m really happy,” he said. Bruni was equally pleased with his starting position for his first race out of single-seaters, and thanked his experienced team-mate, double FIA N-GT Champion Stephane Ortelli : “He has so much experience and a very good career in GT racing, so he is helping me a lot, and gives me good advice. I have to thank him.”

Kirkaldy made up another all-Ferrari top three, on the first time out with Pirelli tyres. “We are going to have a hard fight in GT2 this year; it is going to be great ! This session was close, we worked hard with Pirelli. They did a great job for us. We are learning with them, they are learning with us, and we are moving forwards together.”

He was closely followed by Emmanuel Collard in the BMS Scuderia Italia Porsche 997 GT2. Fifth in the session was the second Scuderia Ecosse car, which had broken its engine in the first free practice session. Due to this, its times were cancelled and the car will start from the back of the grid. This promoted the Ebimotors Porsche shared by Busnelli and former GT3 race-winner Marcello Zani to fifth. Tech9 were sixth on their GT2 debut, ahead of Felbermayr-Proton’s Porsche 996 car.

The session started with Collard on provisional pole, with a time of 1:35.896. His time was overtaken by that of Bruni, in the nr 50 Ferrari, who was in turn displaced by Kirkaldy; at this stage, the top four were within five tenths of a second. Eight minutes into the session, Dirk Müller set a lap of 1:35.113, which proved good enough for pole.

The Grid
1. Bartels/Biagi Vitaphone Racing Maserati MC12 1min 31.339secs GT1

2. Deletraz/Hezemans Carsport Holland Corvette C6R 1min 31.344secs GT1
3. Kumpen/Longin GLPK Carsport Corvette C5R 1min 31.364secs GT1
4. Bertolini/Piccini Playteam Maserati MC12 1min 31.551secs GT1
5. Hines/Peter PSI Experience Corvette C6R 1min 32.113secs GT1
6. Babini/Davies BMS Aston Martin DBR9 1min 32.304secs GT1
7. Wendlinger/Sharp JetAlliance Racing Aston Martin DBR9 1min 32.306secs GT1
8. Giannoccaro/Pier Guidi Playteam Maserati MC12 1min 32.433secs GT1
9. Ramos/Montanari Vitaphone Racing Maserati MC12 1min 32.565secs GT1
10. Bouchut/Mucke Racing Lamborghini Murcielago 1min 32.848secs GT1

11. Mondini/Monfardini BMS Aston Martin DBR9 1min 32.883secs GT1
12. Lichtner-Hoyer/Lechner JetAlliance Racing Aston Martin DBR9 1min 33.170secs GT1
13. Menten/Kox Racing Lamborghini Murcielago 1min 33.286secs GT1
14. Kane/Cocker Barwell Aston Martin DBR9 1min 33.398secs GT1
15. Vilander/Muller AF Corse Ferrari 430GT 1min 35.113secs GT2
16. Bruni/Ortelli AF Corse Ferrari 430GT 1min 35.214secs GT2
17. Niarchos/Kirkaldy Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari 430GT 1min 35.246secs GT2
18. Collard/Malucelli BMS Porsche 911 GT3 RSR 1min 35.683secs GT2
19. Mullen/Enge Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari 430GT 1min 36.517secs GT2
20. Busnelli/Zani Ebimotors Porsche 911 GT3 RSR 1min 36.572secs GT2
21. Machitski/Edwards Tech 9 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR 1min 36.588secs GT2
22. Macari/Aucott JMB Maserati MC12 1min 36.709secs GT1
23. Ried/Basseng Felbermayr-Proton Porsche 911 GT3 RSR 1min 38.449secs GT2
24. Leinders/Kuppens Belgian Racing Gillet Vertigo No Time G2